I have had a very positive response from colleagues in Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) assuring me that in practice the Cities & Local Growth Unit has always been a joint unit between MHCLG and BEIS. The recent notification about the redeployment of the small but specifically coastal focused team was simply to let stakeholders know that they were taking action to better joining up work on coastal areas with that on their wider inclusive growth agenda, in the light of Government’s commitment to supporting and levelling up areas across the country.
To achieve this there’s been some internal movement between departments but this we are assured doesn’t mean MHCLG and other departments won’t continue to support coastal areas as part of their work. Indeed, one of the objectives of the moving staff is to ensure that MHCLG work better with those other departments. MHCLG also retain a dedicated community’s team within it.
There is no link with the changes in structure and personnel and any future plans for the Coastal Community Fund (CCF), which the coastal team helped administer.
The future of the CCF remains a matter for the forthcoming comprehensive spending review (CSR). Coastal interests can wait to see what the review recommends and then respond accordingly, or they may wish to continue to voice the critical importance of the fund, in order to ensure this is taken into account within HMCLG’s, wider Government and in particular Treasury’s CSR planning.
Better surely to work to have the continuance of a specific CCF written into the responsible departmental and wider Government CSR plans than to risk any potentially for having to fight to have it reinstated after the individual department and wider Government plans are announced?
Why the concern? CCF is a unique fund set up in recognition of the scale of difficulties and the unusual conditions experienced at the coast, unusually funded from a set percentage of Crown Estates marine revenues (current 33% down originally from 50%). Those unusual conditions common to coastal communities have previously made it more difficult for them to compete successfully, on merit, in open competition for funding with all comers; hence the need for their own specific additional funding mechanism. The post Brexit creation of a new “Shared Prosperity Fund” could easily be seen as an opportunity to simplify arrangements, possibly reverting to a single funding stream for all, in which case the coast may again find itself inadvertently disadvantaged?